It is the Chinese festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. I would compare it it to how we spend the Christmas holiday, back at home. Everyone travels back to their hometowns to be with loved one. It's all about spending time with family and eating lots of traditional food!
“I'm inviting you to my home town. Do you want to go with me?” Said a WeChat voice note from one of my really good friends, Yda. It was a resounding “YES” for me! I was going to live in an actual house (not an apartment) and with a Chinese family for the new year holiday. I would be the first foreigner to be hosted by her family.
She is a former EF colleague. She was the Progress Advisor (PA) for two of my classes. Because of the language barrier, PA's do all communication to the parents about their son/daughter's progress in the class. They make our job really easy, which is one of the reasons I love EF; less admin work for the teachers!
Yda and I travelled to her hometown, Shaoxing, in the Zhejiang province via high speed train. What could have taken over 4 hours by car, turned out to be a 1-hour journey on the rail. Our holiday started with a mini vacation to the birth place of Luxun in Shaoxing. Luxun was one of the leading figures in Chinese literature. We stayed in a very chic hostel. Yda described it as having a Moroccan feel to it.
The birth place of Luxun is a big complex of historical buildings, a memorial, garden and of course, his house. I love visiting historic sites. It was great to get glimpses into the ancient residence and architecture. This was also special because one of my favorite parks in Shanghai is actually Luxun Park. It's literally across the road to where I work.
To be honest, street food isn't really my vibe. However, Shaoxing street food completely changed my mind! These were among my favorite dishes I tried:
• Deep fried rice cake with spicy soy sauce.
• Yellow wine ice cream.
• Stinky tofu. (I tried this again after an epic fail in Shanghai). The one they make in this part of China is delicious. It's crispy on the outside and I highly recommend you dip in it in a bit of chili sauce and vinegar.
The whole house belongs to Yda's parents. Our room was on the fourth floor; I counted 62 steps to get to the top floor! I was not going to gain any weight while staying here. Seeing a house in China was novelty for me, let alone staying in one. There was no such luxury in Shanghai. Everyone was dressed warm inside because AC “makes your body weak”; this is what I've been told.
I also met Yda's grandma and grandpa, along with Yda's parents. In total, there are 4 people that live in this huge house. The bed was Chinese style; rock-hard which is good for your back. Yda's mom treated me to a foot spa and I slept like a baby.
If you want to find the elderly in China, you just need to look at the person next you. They are out and about. Exercising in parks. Dancing. Taking grandkids to school. Preparing meals for everyone. It was no different in Yda's house. We literally did nothing but eat. This was a little bit strange for me.
Yda's grandpa cooked a whole fish. I did take a bite because this is the most important meal of the year. It was delicious. We sat around the table. I understood nothing, but felt welcome and at home. Here and there Yda would translate. I enjoyed lots of vegetable dumplings!
We hiked every day when I was there. My step count was always way over the 10,000 mark. Our evening walks still ring a beautiful memory. I thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful town. The weather was pleasantly warm, considering it is still winter.
This was the biggest hike. I have never ever climbed that many steps in my whole entire life. I was amazed by people having babies on their man hips. Some of the ladies wearing boots with a heel. How? This gave me strength to keep going too. The views were just breathtaking. Walking on the glass bridge was worth the climb. The suspended bridge was another experience as we wobbled along with thousands of Chinese tourists. I didn't come across a single foreign person. I was one in a million. Literally.
Traveling during Chinese holidays is a lot of people's nightmare. The crowds are unimaginable. However, I had peace of mind thanks to Yda because she took care of everything.